A new survey shows that the majority of Americans no longer believe that Jesus is the path to salvation and instead believe that being a good person is sufficient.
As part of the ongoing release of the Arizona Christian University-based Cultural Research Center's American Worldview Inventory, the latest findings — exploring perceptions of sin and salvation — from George Barna, the group's director, show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that having some kind of faith is more important than the particular faith with which someone aligns.
Sixty-eight percent who embrace that notion identify as Christians, including 56% of self-described evangelicals and 62% of those who identify as Pentecostals. Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants and 77% of Catholics also embraced that idea, the findings show.
Slightly over half of Christian respondents said they believe someone can attain salvation by "being or doing good," a figure that includes, 46% of Pentecostals, 44% of mainline Protestants, 41% of evangelicals, and 70% of Catholics.
In addition to the viewpoint that eternal salvation can be earned, survey results show that 58% of Americans believe that no absolute moral truth exists and that the basis of truth are factors or sources other than God. Seventy-seven percent said that right and wrong is determined by factors other than the Bible. Fifty-nine percent said that the Bible is not God's authoritative and true Word and 69% said people are basically good.
“If you look at some of the dominant elements in the American mind and heart today, as illuminated by the Inventory, most people believe that the purpose of life is feeling good about yourself," Barna said in a statement sent to The Christian Post.
"Most people contend that all faiths are of equal value, that entry into God’s eternal presence is determined by one’s personal means of choice and that there are no absolutes to guide or grow us morally.
“That philosophy of life contradicts a fundamental basis of what may be the two most significant documents to the longevity and success of America – the Bible and the Constitution of the United States. Those documents agree that this nation will only be healthy and fruitful if it is populated by moral people. By abandoning our moral standards and traditions, and replacing them with inclusive and conditional preferences, we're losing the foundations that have enabled the ‘American experiment’ to succeed for more than two centuries. We can only hope that our critical moral institutions — particularly the family and the church — will wake up and help the nation to get back on track.”
The results are from a January 2020 survey among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, with a maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points, based on the 95% confidence interval.
The comprehensive research has documented the profound shifts in worldview among Americans in recent decades. Whereas 30 years ago, people spent considerable time thinking and learning about God, much of the current culture has become increasingly self-focused, Barna previously noted.
The release of the AWVI research was going to coincide with the launch of the Cultural Research Center at ACU in Glendale, Arizona, in March but the center's formal event had to be delayed until the fall due to COVID-19.